"We have a traffic crash problem in the City of Bend, to put it bluntly," Police Chief Jeff Sale said at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting, in a brief overview of the results of a traffic safety study spanning 2006-2010.
In that four year period, Bend had 22 fatal car crashes (which killed 24 people all told) — significantly more than comparable Oregon cities such as Springfield (16), Medford (12), and Corvallis (2). Most of the crashes were caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speed, or inattention, Sale said.
The study also identified hot spots. The downtown core had the most crashes, but there were other problematic intersections further out.
But it wasn't all bad news. Sale said that brief targeted enforcement efforts by the city's four traffic officers were effective in reducing the number of crashes and that such efforts can, in the long run, reduce crashes by up to 50 percent.
However, he said, in order to have a lasting impact, the department needs more bodies — both on the streets and in the courthouse. Sale proposed adding, for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, two additional patrol officers, one corporal, one administrative assistant, and one court clerk (along with the necessary equipment for staff to do their jobs).
"Our hope here is to change behavior in the long run," Sales said, adding that efforts would focus on DUIIs, which correspond with the greatest number of fatalities.
While he estimated the initial costs (including one-time expenditures) would come to about $634,500, he added that revenue from traffic citations would likely offset all but about $100,000 of the annual continuing costs.
The Council has plenty of time to consider the proposal, which is not without detractors. But Councilor Jodie Barram thanked Sale for the study and proposal, saying, "I think it's a step in the right direction."
In other news, the City Council voted 4-2 to approve a second reading of an ordinance limiting building heights west of Brooks Street downtown to 35 feet with a 5 foot variance. The Council also heard a report on the status and potential timeline for the remand of the Urban Growth Boundary.